Saturday, November 17, 2018

Why does a burger joint have a Filet-O-Fish sandwich on its menu?

The item below popped up on my MSN news feed this morning:

If you don’t feel like clicking on the link, here’s a slightly different version:

In 1962, Cincinnati, Ohio-based McDonald’s franchisee Lou Groen had a problem. His local clientele was close to 90% Roman Catholic, which was causing his restaurant to founder mightily on Fridays and during Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter during which Roman Catholics abstain from eating meat.

In those days, when your McDonald’s franchise was struggling, you didn’t noodle around with middle management. You got on the phone with Ray Kroc himself. Sympathetic to the struggles at Groen’s store, Kroc rather famously came up with a proposition. They would, as Groen had asked, begin testing a new fish sandwich to help the store get through those Friday rough patches. Kroc also insisted, however, that the restaurant also test his solution. Kroc thought the answer was to feed Catholics his “Hula Burger,” a slice of grilled pineapple with cheese on a cold bun, and demanded that both items be placed on the menu. Whichever sandwich sold best would be rolled out to the nationwide menu, and would become the first non-hamburger addition to the McDonald’s menu. 

Lou Groen’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich won in a landslide, saved his struggling franchise, and McDonald’s went on to sell approximately 300 million of the sandwiches per year.

The prohibition of eating meat on Fridays actually dates back to the early days of the Catholic church. The complete story is VERY complicated, and can be found at the link below:

The short version, though is this:

The Second Vatican Council, which ran from October 11, 1962 to December 8, 1965, relaxed, but did not eliminate, the requirement to abstain from meat. However, the media and much of the laity interpreted these actions as abolishing the Church's requirement that the faithful abstain from meat on Fridays during the year and on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent.

The confusion surrounding the relaxing of the abstinence rule led the vast majority of Catholics in the U.S. and elsewhere to stop abstaining from meat on Fridays. In recent years the Church in the U.S. has managed to get many practicing Catholics to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent.
Lou Groen’s story illustrates why it is important to pay attention to LOCAL conditions. Although the area where his restaurant is located was 90% Catholic, Cincinnati itself is a lot less, at 21%. Due to the fact that they all have a heavily Irish population, Boston, New York City, and Pittsburgh are all tied (at 36%) of their population who are Catholic.

The complete list, of which cities are the most Catholic, is posted below:

All 4 of the major cities that I have lived in have populations that are more than 25% Catholic, which is why I went to a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school. Evan if you aren’t Catholic, chances are pretty good that you would still enjoy a fish sandwich. Due to  the fact that NUMEROUS outlets offer fish sandwiches, how do you know which one is best?

To find out, I reviewed 7 different websites to find out the winner.

The Catholic News agency liked the fish sandwich at Chick-Fil-A, which is available only during Lent -

Consumer Affairs liked the version by Wendy’s –

Business Insider also liked the version by Wendy’s –

The Focus Team picked Wendy’s -

Takeout liked McDonald’s –

Mealhack liked Arby’s -

Mlive liked Wendy’s -

You probably have your own preferences, but if I were looking for a good fish sandwich, I’d buy it at a Wendy’s. However, apart from the fact that Wendy’s was the winner in 4 out of 7 surveys, there is another reason that I would go to Wendy’s, and that is Dave Thomas himself. The longer version of this story is posted at the link below, but here are a few highlights:

Thomas was born on July 2, 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey to a young unmarried woman he never knew. He was adopted at six weeks by Rex and Auleva Thomas, and as an adult became a well-known advocate for adoption, founding the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. After his adoptive mother's death when he was 5, his father moved around the country seeking work.

At age 12, he got his first job at Regas Restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. At the age of 15, he was working at the Hobby Horse Restaurant in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Not long after he moved to Ft. Wayne, he dropped out of high school, and it took him until 1993 to obtain his GED, at the age of 61. He subsequently became an education advocate and founded the Dave Thomas Education Center in Coconut Creek, Florida, which offers GED classes to young adults.

In the 1950’s, the family that owned the Hobby Horse also opened a KFC restaurant. Not long after that, Thomas began to provide business advice to Col. Harlan Sanders, and eventually became a regional director for KFC. He later became part of an investment group that started Arthur Treacher’s, and less than a year later (On November 15, 1969), he opened the first Wendy’s restaurant in  Columbus, Ohio.

In 1982, Thomas resigned from day-to-day operations at Wendy’s – and sales started to slip. In 1989, company management asked him to become a TV spokesman for the company. Although his initial ads were not successful, revised ads in the early 1990’s were EXTREMELY successful, and Thomas eventually made more than 800 commercials, more than any other company founder in television history. At the time of his death in 2002, there were  more than 6000 Wendy’s operating in North America, and his net worth was $4.2 billion.

If you’re a big fan of fish sandwiches, give thanks to your Catholic friends, who created the demand, but don’t forget to thank Dave Thomas, who created the best sandwich.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Forty years later, history repeats itself

Forty years ago next Monday, James Warren Jones died of a self- inflicted gunshot wound in the jungles of Guyana, shortly after 918 of his followers (including 304 children) died after drinking Flavor Aid that had been laced with cyanide. In addition, Congressman Leo Ryan and some of his team were murdered by followers of Jones when they attempted to board their return flight to San Francisco.

Jones started the Peoples Temple in Indiana during the 1950s. He was officially ordained in 1956 by the Independent Assemblies of God and in 1964 by the Disciples of Christ. He moved the Temple to California in 1965 and gained notoriety with its activities in San Francisco in the early 1970's. He then relocated to Guyana. In 1978, media reports surfaced that human rights abuses were taking place in the Peoples Temple in Jonestown.

Early in his career as a preacher, Jones was active in the civil rights movement, and was appointed the director of the Human Rights Commission by Indianapolis mayor Charles Boswell in 1960. Jones and his wife even went so far as to adopt several children who were partly non-Caucasian in order to create a “rainbow family”.

In 1962, Jones and his family moved to Brazil because he had read it would be a safe place in the event of a nuclear war. On the way to Brazil, he briefly stopped in Guyana, which was then still a British colony.

Jones became plagued by guilt for leaving behind the Indiana civil rights struggle and possibly losing what he had tried to build there . When Jones' associate preachers in Indiana told him that the Temple was about to collapse without him, he returned from Brazil in December 1963. He told his Indiana congregation that the world would be engulfed by nuclear war on July 15, 1967, and that would then create a new socialist Eden on Earth. As a result, the Temple had to move to Northern California for safety. Accordingly, the Temple began moving to Redwood Valley, California, near the city of Ukiah. 

By the early 1970s, Jones began deriding traditional Christianity as "fly away religion", rejecting the Bible as being a tool to oppress women and non-whites, and denouncing a "Sky God" who was no God at all. Jones wrote a booklet titled "The Letter Killeth", criticizing the King James Bible. Jones also began preaching that he was the reincarnation of Gandhi, Father Divine, Jesus, Gautama Buddha, and Vladimir Lenin. Former Temple member Hue Fortson, Jr. quoted Jones as saying, "What you need to believe in is what you can see ... If you see me as your friend, I'll be your friend. As you see me as your father, I'll be your father, for those of you that don't have a father ... If you see me as your savior, I'll be your savior. If you see me as your God, I'll be your God."

Within five years of moving to California, the Temple experienced a period of exponential growth and opened branches in cities including San Fernando, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. By the early 1970's, Jones began shifting his focus to major cities because of limited expansion opportunities in Ukiah. He eventually moved the Temple's headquarters to San Francisco, which was a major center for radical protest movements at the time. 

The move led Jones and the Temple to become politically influential in San Francisco politics, culminating in the Temple's instrumental role in the mayoral election victory of George Moscone in 1975. Moscone subsequently appointed Jones as the chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission.

Unlike most cult leaders, Jones was able to gain public support and contact with prominent politicians at the local and national level. For example, Jones and Moscone met privately with vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale on his campaign plane days before the 1976 election, leading Mondale to publicly praise the Temple. [First Lady Rosalynn Carter also personally met with Jones on multiple occasions, corresponded with him about Cuba, and spoke with him at the grand opening of the San Francisco headquarters, where he received louder applause than Mrs. Carter.

While Jones forged alliances with key columnists and others at the San Francisco Chronicle and other press outlets, the move to San Francisco also brought increasing media scrutiny. After Chronicle reporter Marshall Kilduff encountered resistance to publishing an exposé, he brought his story to New West magazine. In the summer of 1977, Jones and several hundred Temple members abruptly decided to move to the Temple's compound in Guyana after they learned of the contents of an article by Kilduff about to be published, which included allegations by former Temple members that they were physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. Jones named the settlement "Jonestown" after himself.

Religious scholar Mary McCormick Maaga argues that Jones' authority decreased after he moved to the isolated commune, because he was not needed for recruitment and he could not hide his drug addiction from rank and file members. In spite of the allegations prior to Jones' departure, the leader was still respected by some for setting up a racially mixed church which helped the disadvantaged ⁠ ⁠68 percent of Jonestown's residents were black. Jonestown was where Jones started propagating his belief in what he called "Translation", where he and his followers would all die together and move to another planet and live blissfully.

In the autumn of 1977, Tim Stoen and other Temple defectors with relatives in Jonestown formed a "Concerned Relatives" group. Stoen traveled to Washington, D.C. in January 1978 to visit with State Department officials and members of Congress, and wrote a white paper detailing his grievances against Jones and the Temple. Stoen's efforts aroused the curiosity of California Congressman Leo Ryan, who wrote a letter on Stoen's behalf to Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham. The Concerned Relatives also began a legal battle with the Temple over the custody of Stoen's son John.

In November 1978, Leo Ryan led a fact-finding mission to Jonestown to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. His delegation included relatives of Temple members, an NBC camera crew, and reporters for various newspapers. The group arrived in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown on November 15. Two days later, they traveled by airplane to Port Kaituma, and then were transported to the Jonestown encampment in a limousine. Jones hosted a reception for the Ryan delegation that evening at the central pavilion in Jonestown.
The delegation left hurriedly the afternoon of November 18 after Temple member Don Sly attacked Ryan with a knife. The attack was thwarted, bringing the visit to an abrupt end. Ryan and his delegation managed to take along fifteen Temple members who had expressed a wish to leave. At that time, Jones made no attempt to prevent their departure.
As members of the delegation boarded two planes at the airstrip, Jones' armed guards, called the "Red Brigade," arrived on a tractor and trailer and began shooting at them. The gunmen killed Ryan and four others near a Guyana Airways Twin Otter aircraft.
The five killed at the airstrip were Ryan, NBC reporter Don Harris, NBC cameraman Bob Brown, San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson, and Temple member Patricia Parks. Surviving the attack were future Congresswoman Jackie Speier, then a staff member for Ryan, Richard Dwyer, the Deputy Chief of Mission from the U.S. Embassy at Georgetown, Bob Flick, a producer for NBC, Steve Sung, an NBC sound engineer, Tim Reiterman, a San Francisco Examiner reporter, Ron Javers, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Charles Krause, a Washington Post reporter, and several defecting Temple members .
Later that same day, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown. 304 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning, mostly in and around the settlement's main pavilion. This resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until the September 11 attacks. The FBI later recovered a 45-minute audio recording of the suicide in progress. 
Although the tragedy of Jonestown lies in the distant past, there is a cult leader in America today who is far more dangerous than Jim Jones. He is pictured below:

Early in his presidency, Trump sent 59 missiles into Syria on a whim, and he also authorized the use of “the mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan – and then it got worse. Almost exactly a year after the first missile strike in April of 2017, he sent 118 more into the country. Each Tomahawk missile costs $1.4 million. If you do a little quick math, you'll discover that the cost of the two missile strikes was $250 million, slightly more than the $220 million that our country is spending to stop a non-existent threat from a caravan of asylum seekers heading north from dangerous Central American countries. 

Golf trips to Trump properties have cost $72 million since his inauguration.

The massive "tax scam" that was passed in the spring will cause the budget deficit this year to hit $1 trillion. 

If you can pronounce "emolument", you probably suspect that foreign governments have spent a LOT of money at Trump properties since his inauguration, but it will take someone smarter than me to find out the exact amount. (Are you listening, Mr. Mueller?)

If that doesn't make you shake your head, this will:

In the summer of 2017, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. "Three times [Trump] asked, if we had them, why can’t we use them.”
 Despite the fact that every major newspaper in America (including some that had never before endorsed a Democratic candidate) felt that Donald Trump was not fit for the office of the president, he still received more than 62 million votes. The people that voted for Trump either (1) felt that he was going to stop abortion or (2) felt fearful of the number of immigrants entering our country or (3) felt anxious about the good paying blue collar jobs they had lost, that weren’t coming back or (4) they believed the nonsense about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Most disturbing of all, though, is the fact that millions of people believe that Trump was chosen by God to “save America” , which is why he received 80% of the evangelical vote.

Trump supporters either don’t know, or don’t care, that the vast majority of the red hats that read “Make America Great Again” are actually made in Chine. They are also oblivious of the fact that the tariffs that Trump recently made against China will cause their favorite hat to double in price:

Due to the fact that Trump managed a razor thin majority of the votes in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (largely due to voter suppression tactics by the GOP), he earned enough electoral votes to win the presidency – even though he had lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.

The day after the election, my wife as so upset that she was unable to eat, and there were MANY other people who experienced the same symptoms.

On a recent trip to the library, I picked up a copy of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”, by noted Clinical Professor Bandy Lee. The book is actually a compilation of thoughts by 27 well educated psychiatrists and behavioral experts. Due to the Goldwater rule of 1964, psychiatrists are not allowed to publish opinions of pubic figures they have not interviewed personally. However, the Yale Conference of 2017 allowed mental health professionals to voice their opinion if a subject was a danger to himself or others. As a result, every single author in the book had come to the conclusion that Donald Trump was dangerously mentally ill.

Fortunately, the Democratic Party recently regained control of the House of Representatives, which will provide a much needed restraint on Trumps’ worst excesses. Although it IS possible that impeachment proceedings could start after January 20, I am of the opinion that the Democrats will use other methods to control Trump.

Last week, protesters around the country protested the appointment of Matthew Whitaker due to his obvious conflict of interests vis a vis the Mueller investigation. If you are still in the mood for protesting, I would recommend buying the t-shirt posted below:

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Let the sunshine in !!

In 1970, a band named the 5th Dimension released a song titled “ Aquarius” (Let The Sunshine In) . You can listen to it by clicking on the link below:

Arizona voters recently rejected Proposition 127 by a margin of 69 to 31.The proposition was easily the most expensive proposition in the history of the state.
Here is a breakdown of the money spent opposing, and supporting, the proposition:

·   $29.9 million from Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, funded by APS' parent company opposing the measure.
·   $23.2 million from Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, funded by NextGen to promote the measure.
·   $785,000 from Save Native American Families, funded by the Navajo Nation opposing the measure.
·   $734,000 from Vote No Arizona, funded by rural electric companies opposing the measure.
·   $97,000 from Southern Arizonans for Responsible Energy, funded by Unisource Energy Corp. and the Tucson Metro Chamber opposing the measure.
·   $16,000 from Responsible Energy for Mohave County, funded by Unisource Energy Corp. opposing the measure.

The promotional material from APS claimed that electric costs would increase by $1000 a year. Since it is to the company’s advantage to have higher electric rates, why in the world would they spend $29.9 million to oppose the measure?

The reason, of course, is that APS  wants to build a bunch of new gas-fired power plants, and they will make less money in a world where the ballot measure passes and their dirty-energy-building-boom no longer makes sense.

In 2017, APS got approval for a rate increase that gave the company an additional $95 million, which apparently was not enough. In September of 2018, they requested ANOTHER rate increase, which would give the company an ADDITIONAL $67.1 million. Since utilities are governed by the Arizona Corporate Commission, it should not surprise you that APS spent more than $7 million to elect regulators who are sympathetic to their needs. For now, the second rate increase is on hold.

Even though the proposition did not pass, that does not mean that renewable energy is dead in Arizona. The Arizona Corporation Commission, five elected officials who regulate utility rates and policies, has its own mandate that electric companies get 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2025. They are considering an increase in that standard to get 80 percent of the state's electricity from renewables and nuclear energy by 2050.

Opponents of Prop. 127 said that such measures are best implemented by the Corporation Commission, which can amend the plan over time. Prop. 127 would change the state constitution and not give utility regulators much wiggle room in how the plan is implemented.

Currently, APS gets 12% of its power from renewable sources, Tucson Electric Power (which provided free solar panels to 44 Tucson schools) gets 13% of its power from renewable sources), Our electric provider, Trico Electric, currently gets 13.6% of its power from renewables, and plans to expand that to 27% by 2030. Trico did not take a position for or against Proposition 127:

Arizona gets a higher percentage of available sunlight (85%) than any other state. Arizona also enjoys 193 clear days every year, which is also the highest of any other states. The complete list of all states can be found at the link below:

In terms of % of power obtained from renewable sources, Arizona is pretty much “middle of the pack”, since the state is ranked #30 out of 50. The states that get the highest percentage of their power from renewable sources (over 80%) are Idaho, Maine, and Rhode Island. All three of these states receive a LOT less sunshine than Arizona does. Maine, in fact, gets only 57% of available sunlight, and only 101 clear days a year.

Not surprisingly, the states that have the highest suicide rates (Alaska and Montana) have a lot of cloudy days – and loose gun laws.

As of November, 2015, 195 counties had signed the Paris Agreement related to climate change. Although the United States cannot withdraw the agreement until November, 2020,  Changes in United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement have already been put in place.

Amazingly, some of the countries that signed the Paris Agreement are already receiving close to 100% of the energy from renewal sources,  and a lot of them don’t get a lot of sunshine. The leader at this point is Iceland, which is not exactly what you would call a sunny location. Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Denmark aren’t far behind.

The oldest standing committee in the House of representatives is the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which was founded on December 14, 1795. Although the committee has been chaired by a Republican the last 4 years, it appears likely that the committee will be chaired by a Democrat after the first of the year.

Things aren’t quite as rosy on the Senate side. Jim Inhofe the senior senator from Oklahoma served as the chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works until 2017. Inhofe is best-known for his denial of global warming He supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and has proposed the Inhofe Amendment to make English the national language of the United States. He is also the guy who brought a snowball to the Senate floor in February of 2015 to “prove” that global warming is a hoax.

I would LOVE to have solar power at our house, but if you are not a homeowner who has PURCHASED (rather than leased) the solar system, the economics don’t justify the cost.

Now that is November, our electric bills have are down DRAMATICALLY  from their summer peak. Since the days where the peak temperature hit 115 degrees are now gone (at least until next June) we can now turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and LET THE SUN SHINE IN !

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reasons to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

The U.S. Civil War might have turned out very differently had the French won the battle of Cinco de Mayo in Pueblo, Mexico on May 5, 1862. If the French had been victorious, they would have aided the South in the U.S. Civil War, and our destiny might have been very different.

In 1861, Mexico was bankrupt, owing staggering sums of money to Britain, France, Spain, and the United States. Years earlier, the United States had offered to cover Mexico’s debt in exchange for a mortgage on part of Mexico’s territory. Having already lost half its territory to the United States in the war of 1848, Mexico rejected the offer.

(The map pictured below shows how far north Mexican territory extended)

What had kept the European powers from direct intervention in Mexico was the Monroe Document of 1823, which prohibited Europe from interfering in this hemisphere. After the Civil War broke out, France, Spain, and England signed the Covenant of London in October, 1861, agreeing to send troops to Mexico in sufficient numbers to secure payments. In a nod to the Monroe Document, they claimed that this use of force was not for territorial gain or to interfere in Mexico. Spain and England sent the first bill-collecting expedition to Veracruz. Although they encountered no resistance, and an agreement was reached, they did not collect their money.

Meanwhile, France landed a sizable force, and the European intervention became exclusively French. On May 5, the French army attacked Puebla. Although the Mexican army, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza de Seguin (who was born in Texas) was not as well equipped as the far superior French army (which was the most powerful army in the world at that time), they emerged victorious.

The victory gave Mexico a huge dose of patriotism and inspiration, and it gave Mexico a soul of its own and national identity. As a result, Cinco de Mayo is considered almost as important as Mexican Independence Day, which if September 16. Mexican Independence came about, incidentally, became a reality largely due to the efforts of a Catholic priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla. His story is posted below:

While the battle of Cinco de Mayo was being waged, Robert E. Lee was winning battles for the South. If France had defeated the Mexican army, they likely would have joined forces with the Confederacy, and would have convinced England to help free the Southern ports (which had once been part of France) from the Union blockade.

France and England also wanted to halt U.S. expansion into Latin America, and Napolean III also dreamed of establishing stronger ties between France and Mexico. As a result, Napolean III sent Maximillan (the unemployed Archduke of Austria  and his wife Carlota to set up a monarchy in Mexico. Understandably, Mexico was not pleased, and resisted the new monarchy. For its part, the United States refused to recognize the monarchy, and continued to recognize the Benito Juarez government (located in El Paso del Norte) as the only legitimate one. At times, the Juaraz government had to go into temporary exile in Franklin, Texas, which is now called El Paso.

Maximillan and Cordota set up their court, wrote a book on court etiquette, and reintroduced royal grandeur, first imported to Mexico City by Spain. After the Civil War ended, armed resistance against the French occupation grew, and some members of the victorious Union army wanted to go to war against France in Mexico. General Ulysses S. Grant (who had already been to Mexico during the invasion of 1847) declared it was necessary to aid the Republic of Mexico. For Mexico, the possibility of U.S. involvement was even more frightening than the French presence. At the urging of the United States, the French departed, in part because they also had problems of their own in Europe. In effect, the United States inadvertently repaid Mexico for its help in keeping France becoming allies of the Confederacy.

Although his wife Carlota returned to France, Maximillan refused to abdicate his throne, declaring that he was 100% Mexican, heart and soul. His declaration, however, turned out to be unwise, since he was executed on June 19, 1867. After his death, his wife became despondent, and eventually went insane. She died in Belgium in 1927.

Despite the fact the France no longer has a presence in Mexico, French influence is everywhere “south of the border”. Mexican law is based on the Napoleonic code, and France had a heavy influence on Mexican architecture. Popular dances, such as “La Varso-viana” are of French origin, as are Mexico’s bread and pastries. In Cuernavaca, the police are still called gendarmes, and the Mexican City passageway called El Paso de la Reforma was modeled after the Champs Elysees.



If France had prevailed at the battle of Puebla, both Mexico and the United States would be much different today.

(Editors note: the majority of the information about Cinco de Mayo in this story is taken from “Drink Cultura”, by Jose Antonio Burciaga)